Report: Minor sex trafficking in Tennessee on the rise

Published 3:29 pm Wednesday, December 13, 2023

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A new report from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation shows reports of minor sex trafficking in Tennessee have increased significantly from 66 in 2016 to more than 600 in 221 and 518 already in 2023.

The report, the first of its kind in more than a decade, was created following a human trafficking bill that passed during the state’s August special session on public safety.

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The report showed there were 877,000 ads for sex from 128,171 profiles found in the state in 2023 alone. The ads are reviewed as TBI is looking for information on potential trafficking victims.

“Though this is a massive number, it is important to note that not all sex advertisements involve possible trafficking victims,” the report said. “It is also important to note that the same ad could be posted on numerous sites, resulting in duplicate results. Additionally, there are often fake ads created by ‘bots’ designed to take advantage of those individuals seeking to engage in commercial sex acts.”

There have been 101 human trafficking arrests in the state in 2023 after there were 69 in 2022 and 137 in 2021. TBI said there were 15 operations this year and nine in 2022.

“For undercover operations to work in a way that is most optimal, however, the unit needs a sustained number of human trafficking intelligence analysts to examine the thousands of online advertisements to identify potential victims, their location, information on any sex trafficker controlling the victim, and dangers associated with a recovery effort,” the report said.

Aaron Gulbransen, executive director of the Tennessee Faith and Freedom Coalition, pushed for the legislation that led to the report and said this first report should open the door to more comprehensive reports.

“This report is a great start and we’ve always viewed this as a baseline and subsequent reports will demonstrate the progress being made as new legislation over the next session is enacted,” the group said in a statement. “Our takeaway is that it shows an unfortunate spike in child trafficking. It also demonstrates what we knew from the start, that TBI needs additional resources pertaining to data collection and additional agents.”